Do you believe in real life fairy tales—the happy endings or the tragedies?
Leah: Oh – good question!
I do, I think. And yes, both the happy endings and the tragedies. Which ending you get is really just a function of who you are in the situation, and when you decide to stop the story.
But more seriously: Stories are a thing we build and structure in our heads. Just like you can walk down the street and play a song in your head and have Instant! Movie of Your Life! Soundtrack! (what, am I the only one who does that?) it's pretty easy to have a real-life fairy tale.
If something fantastical from ABOVE were to physically come to life, what would you hope it would be?
Leah: Safe. If anything were to be real out of that whole mess, I'd like it to be Safe.
Of course, I'd also like to live in a world where places like Safe weren't necessary, but one thing at a time.
Did you consciously choose to write YA fantasy, or was it something that was just born without much forethought, like a random spark?
Leah: I didn't actually get into this on purpose, no! I wrote ABOVE as an adult novel: one with a younger protagonist, because Matthew needed to be younger in order to tell the kind of story I wanted to tell; a story about learning the world. It was pointed out to me by my agent that it could read as a young adult novel, because it had that very same kind of story.
It's an interesting situation, because right now I'm learning to write a YA novel on purpose, and it's a different kind of process entirely – one I'm quite enjoying!
What’re some of the first things you notice about a book—prose, characters, pacing, etc? And in which area(s) do you think ABOVE is strongest?
Leah:As a reader, I'm pretty finicky about a lot of things: prose, structure, theme, whether the characters feel like three-dimensional, real people or something flatter. I'm also picky about worldbuilding: Does the world the book's created make sense? Do all the pieces of it join together consistently?
This means I'm pretty much noticing everything about a book. This is kind of what happens when you edit a fiction magazine for ten years, and work in a bookstore for four: You read a lot. And you spend a lot of time thinking about what makes fiction work, or not work.
As for ABOVE: I'm, I think, too close to it to say where it's strongest. I can say what I'm aiming for, which is first and foremost, good character work – characters that are complicated and hope and love and fear like real people – but that's something that's up to the reader to answer!
What’s the most important thing to you about ABOVE that you hope readers will take away from it as intended?
Leah: The idea that fundamentally, we're all just people who are trying our best. And so it's really, really important to be kind to each other.
Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee’s wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above—like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.
But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe’s history and the shadows’ attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home—not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.
Make sure to stop by later today for an interview with Sarah Beth Durst and a giveaway!
Find out what happened the first week of Paranormous Fantastival and enter to win some amazing prize packs!
Find out what happened last week and stay updated!
And, lastly, don't forget to check out this week's schedule!
Thank you so much, Leah, for your thoughtful answers to my questions! I hope to read ABOVE one day soon! Comment down below if you've ever strut down the street to your own theme music or if you're a resident of Safe.